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Much is still to be determined for the Bruins up and down the lineup.
Saturday’s preseason matinee against the Philadelphia Flyers saw the debut of familiar faces such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Taylor Hall. With lineup spots hardly in question, Saturday served as an opportunity to shake off an offseason of rust.
The need for a preseason tune-up was quite evident on both sides.
A notable absence from the seemingly-solidified top-six was David Pastrnak, delaying the debut of the highly anticipated Hall-Krejci-Pastrnak combination. Pastrnak’s healthy absence granted top-prospect Fabian Lysell a look in the Bruins’ top-six.
“We want to see Lysell with some high-end players, guys that have played a lot in the league,” Jim Montgomery said.
Further down in the lineup, impending decisions around the fourth line were not made any easier for Montgomery’s coaching staff. With two goal performances, both Marc McLaughlin and John Beecher continued to make their case for opening night.
Here’s what we learned from the Bruins’ 4-0 preseason victory against Philadelphia.
Standout preseason performances from prospective fourth-liners are seeming to become something of a trend for the Bruins.
AJ Greer entered himself onto the scene during Boston’s Tuesday night matchup against the New York Rangers. With seven hits and two goals including the overtime winner, Greer pushed his name to the front of the candidacy line to open the season on the fourth line.
In addition to Greer, solid outings from Oskar Steen and linemate Jack Studnicka put the heat on established veterans like Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, and Chris Wagner. Throughout camp, each candidate’s strong performance has only led to a strong answer from the next group of bottom-six forwards.
Saturday afternoon was Marc McLaughlin’s turn to show his worth.
“I thought today it was great to contribute in a way,” McLaughlin said postgame. “I think today I could have been a little bit more detailed with just managing the puck and stuff like that. I kind of want to hone in on that.”
Positively figuring in on both sides of special teams, McLaughlin provided his typically energetic and hard-nosed style, not to mention the two goals.
McLaughlin’s first came on the power-play — a slot tip off the point shot of Jack Ahcan while operating Patrice Bergeron’s classic bumper spot on the second unit. Later on, with Bergeron right at his side, McLaughlin would jam home his second in a net-front scrum midway through the third period.
An eight-hit performance for Chris Wagner, alongside Beecher and McLaughlin’s two goals, will continue to force the front office to make difficult decisions down the stretch.
“We have a lot of good depth,” Montgomery said postgame. “Decisions are getting tougher and tougher and that’s what us as coaches and management are looking to see.”
The ultimate promise of a highly-skilled prospect like Fabian Lysell is usually curbed by the inevitable growing pains that early-career professional hockey brings.
After taking a hit in the corner from Rasmus Ristolainen in the second period, Fabian Lysell left the Bruins bench and did not return.
Lysell figured in on some early scoring chances alongside Taylor Hall and David Krejci in his first two five-on-five shifts.
“The first 10 minutes I thought he was the best player in the game,” Montgomery said. “A lot of good things to for him to grow his confidence.”
Lysell showcased some of those growing pains later on.
Lysell started the Bruins’ first-period parade to the penalty box after hooking Tanner Laczynski. Lysell held on to the puck too long while working the right circle on the power-play and proceeded to bring down Laczynski.
Lysell’s growing pains will continue as he develops his pro game towards his inevitable pro hockey debut, regardless of how far down I-95 it is.
Concern arose when Fabian Lysell left the game after taking a hit in the corner from Rasmussen Ristolainen in the second period. That concern was heightened even further after Taylor Hall disappeared from the Bruins’ bench.
Both Hall and Lysell, as well as the Bruins, seemed to have dodged a bullet.
“I don’t have confirmation exactly what it is, but they’re both minor,” Montgomery said. “They might miss a day or two of practice, that would be max.”
Even though it is more likely than not that Fabian Lysell will start the season in Providence, a potentially major shoulder injury would seriously stall the 19-year-old’s development.
“We were fearful that it was a shoulder, but thankfully it’s not,” Montgomery said. “I think we’d like to play him at least one more game now.”
Not only does Lysell need to stay healthy as he adjusts to the speed and size of either the NHL or AHL, but health is also of great importance.
A more immediate issue for the Bruins would have been the loss of Taylor Hall.
After developing strong chemistry in the 27 combined regular and postseason games with David Krejci following his trade to the Bruins, Hall found himself a wing pair in David Pastrnak last season.
In all likelihood, a Hall-Krejci-Pastrnak line will be the only part of the Bruins’ opening-night roster untouched by injury. If Hall had joined Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk on injured row, the opening two months of the season would only have become more challenging.
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